Used together ’Equality and Diversity’ is the term to describe the human rights that form the defining values of our society. The definition of this is providing opportunity for all regardless of any other factors deemed to be discriminatory.
Under the Equality Act 2010 it is a legal requirement for all organisations to promote equality in all of their business and activities and it is the responsibility of public authorities to enforce this whilst also carrying out this themselves. Within the Equality Act 2010 there are certain legal requirements under existing legislation to promote equality which identify nine protected characteristics.
The nine protected characteristics are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Equality and diversity in the workplace is essential for an inclusive society. Diversity in the workplace is enriching and will benefit individuals and the organisation. By valuing everyone for the skills and abilities they bring to the organisation rather than on a narrow set of characteristics everyone will ultimately benefit. The organisation will have the best individuals in the right positions and everyone will be free to participate fully and reach their potential. The UK legislation mentioned above – which covers the nine protected characteristics age – sets minimum standards. Workplaces can and should go beyond this with empowering inclusion strategies that provide every employee and service user with the liberty to contribute and engage fully.
How Can Organisations Promote Equality and Diversity?
It may be promoted in the following ways:
Treating everyone fairly
For example, women must be treated and receive equal pay to men.
Creating a culture that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone
If an environment is not accommodating of an individual, the environment must be adjusted. For example, providing wheelchair ramps, prayer rooms, breastfeeding spaces etc.
Ensuring there is equal access to opportunities such as training, promotion, learning and that everyone is able to fully participate in these opportunities
This should be available to everyone and provided fairly and equally based on skills and abilities.
Making sure everyone is given the chance to develop to their full potential
For example, a young person on a low income may not be able to afford to transport fees required to attend an interview or training course.
Giving staff and service users the skills to identify and challenge inequality
Effective and well communicated strategies should be in place and training regularly provided to all staff.
Providing environments, buildings and materials which are accessible and inclusive
Everyone has the right to be able to access environments.
Providing and enforcing policies and procedures
These provide the foundation and guidelines for an organisation.
Equality and diversity is an issue that impacts upon all of us and both organisations and individuals have a responsibility to understand and practice its principles.